Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ketchup Packets

I just noticed that squirrels got into the sack of trash that was sitting on my front porch and left packets of ketchup everywhere.

If you come over for a visit, try not to step on one. It could get a little messy.

crickets chirping...

lots of crickets...

Aren't you jealous of my Saturday night?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Little Known Facts

Because it is Wednesday...

And because I am car-lagged and full of Velveeta...

And because my email inbox is so overwhelming I may leave work and go back to bed...

I am making a list of little known facts about me. Stand back, peeps, and try not to be overwhelmed.

1. I hate hominy. I am not sure I even know what it is but it is detestable.

2. Bleachers scare me, especially the ones that fold up against the gymnasium wall. Just thinking about walking down them makes me want curl up into the fetal position. I am hoping this is a real phobia otherwise it makes me sound like a freak.

3. Aqua Di Gio is my favorite cologne. Everytime I smell it in the mall, I immediately turn and walk towards it. Sometimes I just stand there, sniffing. Is that weird?

4. I have always wanted four children. This started when I was six and my darling cousin Lori told me she wanted four kids (which she has today). And everything Lori said was like pure gold to me. So four has always been my goal.

5. The older I get, the more introverted I am becoming. This will come as a shock to anyone who knew me during my musical theater days in high school or saw me perform in family talent shows circa 2001.

6. The 4th of July is my favorite holiday. I am pretty sure it has something to do with homemade ice cream.

7. I am not a huge fan of going to concerts. Although the two *NSYNC concerts I attended in my late teens were spectacular.

8. I bite my nails. And I am 31. This is not good.

9. I don't like horror movies. And I don't like movies that make me sad. My favorite are action/adventure movies. That is probably why The Goonies is my favorite movie.

10. The Goonies is my favorite movie, followed closely by Braveheart, Pride and Prejudice and Strictly Ballroom.

11. I am not a huge fan of salsa...as in the condiment. Salsa dancing on the other hand, is what I live for.

12. I have been to 22 countries but have yet to visit New York City, Seattle or Chicago. This must be remedied. Immediately.

Okay, there you have it. That's as cerebral as it gets today. Happy Wednesday to you!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Velveeta is Not Organic

Oh people.

I have tried to eat well down here. "Tried" is the operative word. But it is nearly impossible. At least that is what I am telling myself.

I came down here with a tub of organic spinach, roasted red pepper hummus, celery sticks, Greek yogurt and walnuts. Apparently I thought that is what I needed to sustain me for these five days. Apparently I thought that would be enough to fight off the dessert demons that scream for me to give in. Apparently I thought the power of rabbit food would reign victorious over everything fried and delicious and comforting and homemade.

Apparently I had lost my mind.

First off, the power of Velveeta is like a magnetic force that sucks all forms of self-control and will power out of your body and slaps you around until you give in and succumb to the almighty queso dip. And once you taste it, there is no turning back. The addictive chemicals found in this processed cheese substance make you do all kinds of things, like pour it on top of chips, enchiladas, beans, rice and even your salad. I even considered naming my first daughter "Velveeta Marie."

Secondly, there is no such thing as "organic" in northwest Oklahoma, unless you count beef. There's lots of organic beef roaming around. The only problem is that they still have hooves and are mooing.

Third, Snickers just taste better down here. And I may or may not have driven to the Quick Stop to buy one. Or seven.

Fourth, the Shattuck Pizza Hut (the town 7 miles from Gage) has the best pizza of any Pizza Hut IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. Trust me, I know this. And when you request things like "I would like an organic crust made with sprouted grains, extra crispy, with pancetta, goat cheese and basil, with fresh oregano and a sprinkling or parmigiano-reggiano on top" they look at you like you just grew a second head and say "Excuse me, honey, did you just say you wanted the double bacon cheeseburger pizza?"

Actually yes, yes I did.

Finally, my Aunt Marge and Uncle Larry are the best cooks in the world, hands down. Last night I was met at their door with roasted chicken, root vegetables, fresh bread and homemade apple pie. And to top off the evening, Marge made kettle corn.

Stick a fork in me, I'm done.

So if I don't come back to Colorado, you'll know why. I'll be rolling around down here in a euphoric, albeit chemically processed, state wondering how my organic phase lasted as long as it did.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Margie Sue's Top Ten Dating Tips

She's back! It everyone's favorite Aunt Margie Sue!

This morning while we were sitting around chatting, I asked my aunt Marge what her top ten dating tips would be for a girl such as myself (READ: SINGLE). And since she and her handsome husband have been married for over 50 years, I figured she knew a thing or two about how to pick 'em...and keep 'em.

Are you ready for this?

Here you go, in no particular order:

10. Make a list of all the qualities that you want in a guy and rank the qualities. Put it in a place that you see often.

9. Don't set your goals too high that they can't be reached. "Men are human and they will never be perfect."

8. When you are in a relationship, you need to give 100%. If you give your all, he will give his all. You can't do it halfway.

7. You can never change a guy. You can only change yourself. "If you change yourself, you will realize he looks different to you...he looks more perfect."

6. Be a girl. Let him do things for you. Let him buy you dinner, let him take charge of the date.

5. When it is the right guy, you will know very soon into the relationship. "I knew I would marry Larry before he ever asked me out on our first date."

4. Be on time, don't make them wait for you to get ready.

3. Cooking is the way to a man's heart.

2. Save the "ooh la la" for marriage. "Keep the honey in the pot, if you know what I mean."

1.  Guys like to feel like they are doing a great job. "The more praise you give them the more they will like you. It's just how it is."

Right after she finished this list Larry walked through the door and Marge said: "Oh Larry. You did such a good job getting the chicken ready for dinner tonight. Thank you so much, honey." Larry beamed.

And then she winked at me.

Margie Sue has still got it.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

(Un)Familiar Territory

Howdy, peeps.

I am writing from northwest Oklahoma where the wind is sweeping and the wheat is waving and vanilla Dr. Peppers are flowing with wild abandon. If you haven't tried a vanilla Dr. Pepper from a fountain, not a can, then you have not truly lived.

My mom and I hit the road at o'dark hundred yesterday morning and headed east until we couldn't handle I-70 a mile longer. Then, we turned south where we drove through exciting towns such as Wakeeney, Ness City and the infamous Dodge City.

SIDE NOTE: Dodge City is not all it's cracked up to be. They don't even have a Starbucks. Stinking Kansas. No literally, it stinks.

But then, oh then, we crossed that glorious boundary into God's Country and my mom and I let off a rendition of "Oklahoma" that would have knocked your socks right off. My mom hit harmonious notes that were nearly unidentifiable and when you combine that with my need for a bathroom and lack of sleep, it was a spectacular car wreck waiting to happen. Thankfully, there were no cars on the road (SHOCKING!) and since the shoulders consist of plowed prairie and an occasional tumbleweed, we moved along just fine.

And before we knew it, we rolled into Gage and breathed a sigh of relief.

There is something so safe when I come here. I can sleep in my familiar bedroom and listen to people downstairs talking about the plans of the day or when the guys are going golfing and the girls are going swimming. I have brought friends with me who know the secret closet in the north bedroom and have seen my childhood home just down the street. I even run into people who say "Are you still dating 'what's-his-name'? You two were so cute together." And I look at them and say "Thank you for asking but we broke up 10 YEARS AGO."

I love when that happens.

So for the next few days I will be here, in this familiar territory. I will spend time with cousins, aunts, uncles and friends. I will eat at Ed's and Pizza Hut and a few quick trips to the Quick Stop. And if I'm lucky, I'll sneak in a trip to Super Walmart. There is nothing better than an Oklahoma Super Walmart.

And at the same time, I will try to navigate the unfamiliar of what it looks like to come without him here. My Grandpa had a way of making a place magical.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Faces and Places of IDEAS

I get asked often: "Sarah, what is it you do exactly?" And I love telling people because it involves using cool words like "Djibouti" and "holistic" and "I have no idea what I am doing but thankfully I am still employed."

(Click here to read my blog post about it)

However, as a way to help our constituents, friends and colleagues better understand where we work and what we do, we put together this picture video. It's a glimpse into the lives of people we hope to impact and the transformation we see occurring around the world.

Enjoy!


video

Visit our website if you want to know more about IDEAS. It's a pretty stellar organization. And they aren't just paying me to say that.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Eight

On Thursday, my Women's Group celebrated our eighth anniversary.

CAN YOU EVEN BELIEVE IT? (You probably can believe it, but just go with it.)

I can't. Not at all.



I feel like it was just yesterday when we had our first Christmas PJ exchange.

Or when some of us we went on a cruise to the Bahamas.



Or when we made t-shirts to commemorate years 3 and 7.

Or when we took classes in candle-making, cake-decorating and self-defense.



Or when Heather had her first kiddo.

Or when Abby had her first kiddo.

Or when Rachel had her first kiddo.



Even in this past year we have added a baby girl, celebrated a marriage, started a business, traveled to far away lands, traveled to not-so-far away lands, began a new job, lost family members, gained family members and had our first-ever WG photo shoot.

It is just hard to believe.

So in honor of this milestone, we went out to eat.

Naturally.


And we took pictures.

And we talked.


It's what we do. And after eight years, we are almost proficient at all of them.



Monday, February 14, 2011

I LOVE Love

Happy Valentine's Day, my friends! How are you spending this love-filled day?

Are you currently making your way through a heart-shaped box of truffles?

Is your nose buried in a big vase of red roses?

Are you swooning and sighing as you read through a note from a secret admirer?

Are you at your desk working on grant proposals, wishing your latest hottie crush would come barging through the office door carrying pink peonies, dark chocolate and a grande carmel macchiato and say something like "I can't live without you for one more second"?

I bet you can't guess which one I am doing.

Actually, I love this day. I know some of my other single friends would rather stay under the covers all day long and curse every boyfriend they have ever had, but not me. I fully embrace this day, singlehood and all.

SIDE NOTE: I do have a Valentine. I call him "Daddio." He is wonderful. And he buys me dinner. And pink roses. He's practically a professional at this. I applaud his efforts and welcome them anytime.

In honor of this oh-so girly and mushy and over-marketed holiday, my sister and I had a little "I LOVE love" party. It was everything a Valentine party should be: filled with chocolate and a few fabulous friends.






Chocolate-covered strawberries, homemade kettle corn, dark chocolate peanut butter cookies.

A Valentine's Day trinity.



My new favorite chocolate cake recipe with fudgy cream cheese frosting.

Um, yes please.



I am tempted to send this to my crush. Or chuck it at his head.

Maybe he will get the message.


To drink: sparkling raspberry lemonade.

And pink roses from my Valentine.



I hope your day is full of people just like these.


Much love,
The FC


Friday, February 11, 2011

Recipe Round-Up: Hummingbird Cake

Who's hungry for cake?

Totally dumb question, I know.

Seriously, cake should be its own food group. And this has quickly become one of my favorites. I chose it because it was the most requested recipe from Southern Living. And let me tell you something: the south know what they're talking about!

This cake is simple to make, stays extra moist, and the frosting is to die for. I would highly recommend you make this tonight. Or for your sweetie for Valentine's Day. Or for yourself for Valentine's Day. Or for me for Valentine's Day. Whichev.

Let's do this, shall we?


















Start with flour...


















And add baking soda, salt, sugar and cinnamon.

Mmmmm....cinnamon.


















Next up: 3 eggs. And beat the tar out of them before you throw them in.


















And then add some oil.

SIDE NOTE: If I had remembered to add the vanilla, I would have done so right now. Try not to be like me.


















Now, mix it up slowly. And say a few sweet words to your mixer while it works. They love sweet words. Trust me on this.
















The batter will be very thick once it is mixed together. But fear not my friends, there's more to come!

















Now, grab a can of crushed pineapple and throw it in, juice and all.

SIDE NOTE: Pineapple is my favorite fruit. That and peach cobbler.

















Then mash up a few bananas. You need 2 cups so I used four medium bananas.

SIDE NOTE: Mashing is good for stress. Try it sometime.


















Put the bananas in with the pineapple and mix again. This time your batter will look more like cake batter. And it will smell amazing.

SIDE NOTE: I chose not to put pecans in the batter. The reason for this is because I ran out of pecans.

















Now, in your spare time, grab three cake pans and butter and flour them. Trust me, you will want to butter and flour your pan. Otherwise, the cake will stick and fall apart and you will cry.

There's no crying in cake baking.

















Pour your batter into the pans and pop them in the oven.

In the meantime...mix up the frosting. I forgot to take pictures of this process because I was deeply involved in a movie while I was mixing. But all you need to do is throw all the ingredients into a bowl and mix.

And then you will want to sample it once or 12 times.



Once the cakes are done, let them cool completely.



After you have waited patiently for what seems like FOREVER, grab your cake stand, your frosting from heaven and an off-set spatula.
Be prepared to be amazed.



First up, put a dollop of frosting on the cake stand so your cake doesn't slide around.

Sliding cakes = culinary disaster.

SIDE NOTE: Claire gave me a gift card for my birthday and my new cake stand is the end result. I love sisters who give gift cards.

Now, begin icing each layer...



Just like that.

SIDE NOTE: This recipe makes just enough frosting to cover the cake. If you like extra frosting (and who doesn't?) then I would recommend making 1 1/2 recipes.

Chop up a few pecans and sprinkle on top.



And now it is time to dig in.

Don't be shy.






Who wants the recipe? Of course you do! Go to it, bakers!

Hummingbird Cake
From Southern Living

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained
1 cup chopped pecans
2 cups chopped bananas
1/2 cup chopped pecans (for top)

Preparation
Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; add eggs and oil, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened. (Do not beat.) Stir in vanilla, pineapple, 1 cup pecans, and bananas.


Pour batter into three greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans. Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks.

Spread Cream Cheese Frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake; sprinkle 1/2 cup chopped pecans on top. Store in refrigerator.

Cream Cheese Frosting (makes 3 cups)
Ingredients

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 (16-ounce) package powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation
Beat cream cheese and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed until light and fluffy. Stir in vanilla

 

That Day

Will there ever be a day when I won't feel totally and completely awkward in my own skin?

Will there ever be a day when I won't hear one ounce of bad news or feel some sort of heartache and pain?

Will there ever be a day when regardless of many calories I eat or how little time I spend on the treadmill I won't have to grease myself down just to fit into my jeans?

Will there ever be a day when I'll know more Bible verses than song lyrics?

Will there every be a day when my shoulders won't ache, my knees won't creak and I won't grind my teeth in my sleep?

Will there ever be a day when the thought of others comes to mind before thoughts of myself?

Will there ever be a day when I have my priorities in the right order?

Will there ever be a day when I won't feel lonely even though I am surrounded by people?

Will there ever be a day when my mind isn't plagued by doubt, guilt, worry, fear, insecurity, uncertainty and trepidation?

Will there ever be a day when all is as it should be? When creation bursts forth into song and gladness, no longer groaning for what it was created to be?


Actually...yes.  And I cannot wait for that day.


"Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.


And the glory of the LORD will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
Isaiah 40:4-5

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Handsome

The other night Noah, Claire, my mom and I were talking about how girls are beautiful and boys are handsome. After a few moments, Noah looks at me and says:

"Sarah, you are so very handsome to me."

Hands down, the best compliment ever.

I think.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Organic or Bust

For 2011, I am attempting to try one new thing every month. Dance classes, photography classes, new countries and shorts are on my agenda. So for the month of January I began eating organic. Organic fruit, veggies, meat, nuts, everything. I even buy organic hummus. Weird, I know.

And I know this may sound trendy and froo froo and perhaps borderline ridiculous, but I have to admit there is power in the organic. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against non-organic food. I have eaten them my entire life. But I just felt it was time to make a change and I am happy to report that I feel fantastic! I have more energy, my shoulders seem less sore and I have never eaten so much spinach in all my life.

In other words, I have turned into a rabbit.

A rabbit who eats bacon and almond butter.

Anywho. In my effort to eat better I have discovered the amazing and diverse world of Whole Foods. Of course I have ducked in and out of these stores before but I had never shopped there, you know, REALLY shopped there. I have always felt like I had to have a North Face jacket on to even step foot through the door or at least know how to properly pronounce the word quinoa.

But Whole Foods has a monopoly on all things organic, so I put aside my extreme lack of Colorado trendiness and decided to give it a go, fake Ugg boots and all. Here are my initial thoughts:
  • The bakery may be the most beautiful place on earth. If I could live there, I would. I'm serious.
  • I have a new-found love for sea salt.
  • I don't understand how you can have an entire row just for olives.
  • Greek yogurt is the newest craze and I admit that I love being on that bandwagon.
  • The produce section is a feast for the eyes. It is exquisite and delicious and colorful and exotic. And I currently have more navel oranges than I know what to do with.
  • I hate to say this, but the majority of people who shop there are less than friendly. I don't know what their deal is but apparently my Oklahoma charm falls short. I try to smile at them and they look at me like I just cut down the last tree in the rain forest. I didn't, people. I didn't.
  • The people who work there, on the other hand, are fabulous. They smile often and don't yell at me if I forget my reusable bags.
  • I am not sure how I feel about organic shampoo. I love my Pantene. Chemicals seem to make my hair extra shiny.
  • The meat department is very intimidating. I don't really know how to order food from a butcher. I'm thinking I can't just say "I like meat" and they'll understand what I want. Is there a users guide for this?
  • I have never seen so many different kinds of organic granolas in all my life. Apparently snobby people love their fiber. Who knew?
  • Items that contain artificial sweeteners, colors, dyes or textures are nowhere to be found. If you are looking for your favorite sour blueberry koolaid "juice" pop then you will have to go elsewhere.
  • I am in awe of their dried fruit and nut selection.
  • Organic dark chocolate bars with almonds and sea salt have changed my life. I am better person because of it.
  • The number of handsome men who shop at these stores is above average. And as long as we don't have to talk about hiking, color me available.
So there you have it. I'll keep you posted on my Whole Food encounters. That place is a treasure trove of pretentious humanity and culinary utopia just waiting to happen!

    Thursday, February 3, 2011

    May the Force Be With You

    Between the crisis in Egypt, board meetings and grant proposals, my day is swamped. SWAMPED, I tell you. But I found this video on another blog I follow and fell in love with it.

    There are no words for how great this is.



    I want three or four just like him. Helmet and all.
    Love,
    FC

    Wednesday, February 2, 2011

    Second Winter and a Big Fat Rodent

    Happy February, my friends!

    I love February. I love hearts and chocolate and pink things and flowers and chocolate. I also love that February is only 4 weeks long and that next month ushers in the arrival of spring. Or as I like to call it "our second winter."

    For those of you who do not live in Colorado, our snowiest month is March. Just when you think you have survived another winter and can now emerge from your down-filled cocoon, El Niño or La Niña or some other Spanish family member drops 10 feet of snow on our beautiful state making you wish you could party it up in Cancun with the rest of the world.

    Actually, that is not true. I have absolutely no desire to try on a bathing suit right now. Three-way mirrors combined with bad fluorescent lighting and too many batches of brownies make for a fashion trifecta from Hades.

    As I was saying, I love February, because even though March ushers in a whole new round of winter, just the mere fact of knowing that spring is around the corner and you are closer to the next summer than you are the previous one makes all the difference in the world.

    And to make things even better, Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow today so we will have an early spring. Place your bets on that one, folks.

    So how are you surviving this Arctic Blast of Frigidity? Are you napping? Catching up on mending? Watching movies? Drinking hot chocolate? Going stir crazy?

    Yesterday I worked from home while watching two movies, making a roast, baking a cake, doing three loads of laundry and trying to figure out if I should change from pajamas to another form of stretchy pant. Claire also stayed at home and performed the same type of functions except for the cooking. I am proposing an agreement that if I cook and bake, she will pay my rent. I see this as a win/win situation. I'll let you know what she says.

    I am happy to report that the Hummingbird Cake is SO STINKIN' GOOD! And it is really easy. I took plenty of pictures so I'll post the recipe this week. It is perfect for cold, snowy days, or warm, sunny days in the park. It is an all-weather cake. And when you combine that with cream cheese frosting, it is hard not to want to make it every week.

    Just don't be alarmed when you try on bathing suits. Apparently cream cheese and spandex do not mix.